Darlene Foster's Blog

Reading Challenge 2020

Posted on: December 28, 2020

One of the good things about 2020 is that there was more time to read. My goal was to read 36 books this year and I read 39. I read an assortment of books, including many I’ve wanted to read for a long time – classics, contemporary, children’s and books of poetry and short stories.

Check out my report from Goodreads.


They were all good. My reviews of the books I completed can be found on Goodreads.

Here are a few of my favourites:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is not a 5 it is a 10!! It is one of the best books I’ve read, up there with One Hundred Years of Solitude and A Fine Balance. It is a story within a story. It is complicated, full of many interesting and complicated characters. But I was never confused. Barcelona is the perfect place to set a story like this; a tale of books, writers, history, lovers and mystery. The author uses words so well – “Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” I loved every word.

Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book dear to my heart. It is the history of the area near where I was born and raised, told by someone who lived there as a child when it was just being settled. It is so cleverly written, in a narrative that makes history come to life. He tells the good, the bad and the ugly of prairie life in the early 1900s. The writer returns to the small prairie town 40 years later and this is what he says, “Things look the same, surprisingly the same, and yet obscurely different.” Things haven’t changed that much in these places. The smells, tastes, heat, cold, and sounds of the prairies are all there between the covers and brought back vivid memories. The descriptions of blizzards, cyclones and drought are so real. My favourite line and there were so many, is this one. “I may not know who I am, but I know where I am from.” Reading this amazing book, masterfully written, reminded me of where I’m from.

The Hermit by Jan L. Coates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book for kids and those of us who think like kids. I loved this book. When Danny and his friends discover a hermit living in the woods, they are intrigued. Danny is determined to find out more about him. He also needs to find a way to stop land developers from building condos on the soccer field. Plenty of action, believable characters and real-life situations. The kidspeak was perfect. I liked the main character, Danny, kids will identify with him. The events unfold in a timely fashion with a satisfying ending, and there is a loveable dog in it! I highly recommend this book.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible book by the incomparable Toni Morrison. The reader is taken on the fantastic journey of one man´s life, with prose that pulls you in, as he tries to find his place in the world. The importance of family, even a dysfunctional one, and the relevance of knowing where you come from is woven in with a cast of diverse and quirky characters and intriguing settings. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, one that will stay with me for a long time.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this classic tale. It took me to another time and place; to a coal mining village in South Wales at the end of the 19th century. The writing is so descriptive I felt I was there with the Morgan family. Every sense is used so that you can taste the food, smell the earth, feel the grime of the coal dust, see the verdant valley, and hear the singing of the choir. The feelings and emotions of young Huw Morgan, the main character and point of view, are so vividly described that you laugh and cry along with him. The book was written 80 years ago, so some of the words are old and unfamiliar, but it doesn´t matter. In fact, the lovely Welsh way of speaking comes through and makes the story even more endearing. If you are looking to read a classic, I highly recommend this book.

Good Mothers Don’t by Laura Best

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What would you do if you were a mother and felt you were losing your mind? This incredible book introduces us to Elizabeth, a wife and mom in the early 1960s who is grappling with her sanity. Then something happens to push her over the edge, resulting in a family that is torn apart. This well written, gripping story is told by Elizabeth and those affected by her. I have enjoyed everything Laura Best has written in the past, but she has outdone herself with this story. She has created characters so believable you begin to think you have met them somewhere before, perhaps a neighbour or a family member. I felt the pain, the hope and most of all, the love. I closed the book and wanted to start reading it all over again. This story will stay with me for a long time. Thank you Vagrant Press for the ARC.

Fragments of a Dream by Ruth Larrea

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A well-written story about love, regrets, and possibilities. The story takes place in Greece for the most part. I like how the author skillfully incorporates the sights and scenery within the story of Rosie and Angelo without info-dumping. Both characters are believable and well developed. It is a story of cultural differences and misunderstandings, family and friends. I highly recommend this enjoyable read that will keep you turning the pages wondering what will happen next. This is more than romance, it is about complex relationships in a captivating setting.

Perhaps you will be inspired to read some of these books. I would love to hear about your favourite reads from 2020.

74 Responses to "Reading Challenge 2020"

I read all of Zafon’s books. They are all amazing! I definitely agree with the 10 stars!

He is an amazing writer. I was sorry to hear of his passing earlier this year. I must read the other books as well. xo

My goal was 50 books and I just finished number 50. I clicked on the Goodreads link you provided and it went directly to my report, which I’d never seen before. Interesting! Happy reading in 2021. I’ve already started my first book which will probably be finished next weekend!

Good for you, 50 books is amazing! I´ll have to check that link. Happy reading in 2021!!

Nice collection. I’ll check your Goodreads list, too. I love that feature. It makes it easy to track what we-all have read for a year!

I love that feature. Happy reading in 2021.

Jacqui, you are the tech expert, how can I get the link to open to my list? It seems to open to the list of the person clicking it. Thanks. You can answer me via email if you wish.

I’m glad you had more time to read. I listened to a few audiobooks when everything was closed and I was overseas. I was grateful for having that ability but I still prefer “real” books.

It was nice to be able to sit and read and not think about all the things I need to do and places I had to go. I prefer a book in my hand as well bit it´s great we have choices.

Thanks for introducing me to some intriguing titles I haven’t read – will make a good start on next year’s reading list.

Happy reading in 2021. I was lucky to have read some excellent books.

Hi, Darlene – I love discussing and sharing books, so I greatly appreciated this post. Like another commenter, I clicked on the Goodreads link that you provided and it went directly to my Goodread’s Year in Review and sadly, not to yours. 😦

Thanks! I will see if I can fix the link.

Wow, you’ve shared some really fantastic reads here, Darlene. There are always silver linings in every situation.

Being able to read more this year was definitely a silver lining.

The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all time favourite books – so good. And I have fond memories of How Green Was My Valley too. I like the sound of Fragments of a Dream – must check it out.

I think you would like Fragments of a Dream. Hope you had a good Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year with lots of reading!

Thanks Darlene – for the book recommendation and for the good wishes. Same to you! 🙂

Congratulations on reading more than your goal for the year. I’m glad you found plenty of great reads among the books you read.

I’m currently reading the final book I need to complete my Goodreads reading challenge, which I will finish in time to be able to count it as done. There were very few books I didn’t enjoy from those I read this year, to be honest. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to several books I wanted to read – like your Amanda books, which I do at least now have copies of, so I’m getting closer to reading them.

Oh, and… Regarding the Goodreads link: when you go check out your year in books, there should be a series of numbers after the “2020/” part of the url. You must include those when you post the link, since those numbers are what tells it whose year in books to direct the person clicking the link to. If you don’t see that when you check out your year in books yourself, log out, go to your Goodreads profile without signing in, see where it mentions your year in books, click on it so it brings it up, and grab the entire url from the address bar. The number should then come with it, and people who aren’t you should see your year in books instead of their own. Hope that helps.

Thanks so much, Tori! I hope the new link works. I really appreciate the tip. Happy reading in 2021! I hope you enjoy Amanda and her travels. xo

I’m sure I will. They sound like they’re going to be excellent reads. 🙂

If you’re interested, here’s my year in books: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2020/9194956

(Your link should look something like that, but with a different number sequence at the end).

You did so well. I read the Outlander books too but over a few years. Loved them! Can you try the new link and see if it works. Thanks for the help!!

Sorry for the delay, but I wandered off and am only now getting back here. Anyway, yeah, the link goes where it’s meant to now. 🙂

The Outlander books were my escape when the virus initially hit. Not sure what that says about me, but it’s why I finished them so quickly: I pretty much spent all my waking hours with my audio versions of those playing.

Our reading choices don’t mesh much, but our love of reading does. I may have read Song of Solomon long ago, but I know I have read The Bluest Eye. We are taking a short break and I’ve brought 4 books with me. Two of them are Alexander McCall Smith, a Scottish author.

Like you, reading fires my writing and gives my mind a pleasant place to escape to. Happy New Year, Darlene!

Actually, we do have some common reading tastes as I love Alexander McCall Smith. I´ve read 13 of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books and have a few more on my KIndle. I´ve read some of his other books too. I even met him once in Vancouver. A lovely man, very entertaining. He creates the most amazing characters. Happy New Year to you as well. xo

These books all sound very good! *sharing*

You are too kind, Darlene! Thank you for including Fragments of a Dream.

I enjoyed the book and would like others to as well.

Darlene, I read more nonfiction than fiction usually, but I have shar3ed all of my 2020 favorite on my Wednesday bookmobile series, including the fascinating memoirs about Elton John, a woman who hikes Scotland on a whim, and Paul Theroux’s journey to Patagonia by train…so much out there and so many more to go…here’s to the adventures of 2021!

So many good books out there, fiction and non-fiction. It’s great to share our favourites. So many books that I read, are ones that have been recommended to me. Happy reading in 2021, John.

Yes Darlene I’ve got them piled up ready to go! Happy New Year!

Thanks Darlene for sharing some of your favourites! I’m always on the look-out for new books, and value your reviews. I loved “A Place Called Winter” by Patrick Gale that you recommended a few years ago.

That was such a good book! I’m glad I have recommended books you enjoy. Happy New Year to you and Rick!

Thank you for sharing your favorite reads this year, Darlene!

You´re welcome, Jennie!

Interesting reading list. Thanks for sharing it. I outdid myself on the challenge. I’ll have to raise the bar lol 🙂 x

Good for you! I think most of us made a dent in that TBR list this year.

I think you are right! Lol 🙂 x

A wonderful reading list, Darlene. I read “How Green Was My Valley” decades ago, a wonderful book. Wishing you a very happy New Year. Toni x

Thanks, Toni. It had been on my shelf for a long time. So glad I finally read it. Happy New Year to you as well. xo

Such a great list. I have Shadow of the Wind on my stack to read (thanks to your recommendation) and now I’ll have to add a few more! Thanks Darlene!

You will love Shadow of the Wind! Glad you found books on the list to add to the TBR pile! Happy New Year.

These all sound fabuous. I love books about book lovers.

Me too! Hope there is something there that you might like to read one day!

Congratulations on succeeding in your challenge. You’ve read many wonderful books.

Thanks, Diane. Wish I was a faster reader so I could read more.

I’ve never thought of setting a reading goal. I may just do that! I feel honoured to have made your list. Thank you so much!

Goals work for me. You know I love all of your books but this one was just amazing. I want everyone to read it!

Thank you, Darlene. You are so sweet. ❤

Darlene…awesome reviews and so helpful for me looking to find great reading!! Happy New Year!

I really did read some awesome books this year. Happy New Year to you and your family.

What an outstanding reading list, Darlene. Happy end of the year. Hugs on the wing.

Thanks, Teagan. I was happy to read two of your books this year.

Now that is a real accomplishment. When you find a good book, you just don’t want to put it down until the very end.

Exactly! Sometimes, I don’t even want to put it down at the end. xo

Darlene, don’t you just love those Goodreads reports … it’s like receiving the end of year school reports! 😀 Congratulations on your achievement and thank you so much for sharing some of your favourites! These are are all going on my list for this year! Zafon is an astonishing writer and I haven’t read this Toni Morrison book yet! I read How Green Was My Valley many years ago but now want to reread it! Happy Reading and a very Happy New Year! Xx

Thanks, Annika. Happy New Year and happy reading.

Great list, Darlene. Thanks for sharing.

I’d say that even though you didn’t reach your goal, 36 is a big accomplishment. Happy for the recommendations.

I ended up reading 40 so I was pleased. When it comes to books, I think quality over quantity works better for me.

Hi Darlene – thanks for sharing your “best of” list. My book club read Song of Solomon years ago and it was one of the best book discussions we ever had. Happy New Year and thanks for always supporting my blog! 🙂

Thanks. I can imagine Song of Solomon would create a great discussion. She is amazing. Happy New Year!!

Darlene, you’ve just given me some wonderful recommendations. The TBR list grows and grows! Thanks and happy reading in 2021. 🙂

It does seem like we enjoy similar books. There are books on your list that are on my TBR list too!

I’m not surprised. I’m always glad to find new Canadian books to add. 😊

Thanks for including me in this, Darlene:) I’m not doing the Good Reads challenge this year, but it was interesting to do for one year. My problem is that I remember about 1% of the books I read:) Cheers!

I enjoyed your book, Jan. I like doing the Goodreads challenge as it keeps me reading. I am a very slow reader but I am lucky in that I remember most of what I read (especially the good ones!)

Hi, Darlene. This is a nice list, only 1 on it I have read so far – Good Mothers Don’t by Laura Best. A WOW story. I’ll look for the others because, although I have MANY books TBR, I appreciate suggestions. This year I took on 3 challenges – Goodreads where I set my goal at 700 (lower this year); 52 Books Club, for which I’m to read 52 books for the prompts; Indigo challenge for which I am to read 21 novels for the prompts. Some overlap for the last two, which is wonderful, and I have read 10 so far. Yes, I love to read. Keep it up, Darlene!

I’m glad you loved Good Mothers Don’t as well. I thought it was just superb. You are a dedicated reader. Well done you!

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